Photo credit: Amy Allison
Horrified, I realized we had just slept through the first 10 minutes of our son's first end-of-school-year Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting. Teachers and therapists were sitting in a room across town, wondering where we were.
Who does that?
We held the meeting by phone in our pajamas as I massaged my temples and wondered how I would ever feel like a good mom again. The answer came later that day: I confessed my epic mommy fail to the world via Facebook.
Own the mistake
Owning the gaffe publicly was my way of absolving myself. It was done; we couldn't go back. We'd have plenty more opportunities to make up for it, but for today, well, it was time to move forward.
allParenting writer Sherri Kuhn, who also blogs at Old Tweener, remembers the time she locked her newborn daughter in the car in her 4-year-old's preschool parking lot. Near windows. Where all kinds of other moms were staring and pointing.
"I was trying so very hard to do the two-kid juggle and look like I was a pro," Kuhn remembers. "But I was tired and it was a very windy fall day… and the moment I stepped away from the back passenger door, it slammed. With my purse, keys and adorable newborn inside."
Kuhn did what any sleep-deprived mother of two would do after watching her coffee and her kid get locked in the car: She cried. Then she called in the fire brigade, solved the problem and faced her fans.
"I went inside [the school] and just let it go... laughing and saying that obviously I wasn't cut out to be a mother of two. The preschool moms were pretty clique-ish and I was not about to let them take me down.
"I honestly think that when you own up to your idiotic mothering techniques it does two things. First, it helps other moms realize that we all kinda suck. And second, the more times I tell that story, the more it reinforces to my kids that I make mistakes, too. And that right there is the best outcome of sucky parenting."
Drama from a distance often becomes comedy. Take a deep breath and think about how you'll make another mom laugh — in relief or in commiseration — when your gaffe has the benefit of faded mortification.
I still can't help but laugh when I remember the four minutes of chaos between realizing we were late and solving the problem. Sharing with the world the picture of me launching myself from the bed, tearing into the kitchen and then racing around in circles, in a nightgown and glasses, screaming, "WHAT DO WE DO?!? WHAT DO WE DO?!?" allowed me to share my story and feel good about giving someone else a laugh. We're human, and human things happen.
Stick and move
"Every mom makes mistakes," says Amy Allison, whose kids are 20, 18 and 14. "Good moms make them, apologize and move on. If you continue to beat yourself up over the mistake, you lose cool mom points and your family won't want to be around you."
Allison's 14-year-old daughter particularly enjoys the retelling of how, as she sat in her high chair awaiting her first birthday cake ever, her mom plopped the cake down, lit the candle and walked away to get the camera. You see where this is going.
Hearing her burned daughter's screams, she flew across the room and swatted the candle, cake and nearly her daughter to the floor. Next? Helpless laughter as her husband hollered, "What kind of mom does that?! What's so funny?!"
Hey, at age 1, Allison's daughter's only memory of that momentary mommy lapse comes from the annual retelling of the tale. My point? She survived, and so did Allison.
"You ultimately control your happiness," Allison says. "Find the lesson in your mistake and turn it into something positive."
These days, do you think Allison lets someone else light her kids' birthday cakes? Heck, no. Lesson: Don't relinquish life's pleasures to an ounce of lingering guilt. Own it, laugh and move on.